Throwing Off the Llama’s Groove

When arriving in Bolivia I considered myself someone who ate vegetarian; not that I never ate meat, just that I preferred vegetables and ate small quantities of meat when doing so. Though I do have a humanitarian aversion towards the inhumane breeding and slaughtering of animals, I mainly eat vegetarian for personal health reasons; eating meat honestly just tears my stomach apart. That being said, I don’t feel I have ever fully grasped the connection between meat and the animal from which it comes. I obviously consciously realize that burgers are cow and my Pollos Copacabana is the product of killing chickens, but these meats are such a staple of American cuisine that I have never forced myself to picture the meal in front of me as the remnants of a defenseless creature – until today.

Though I immensely appreciated and enjoyed the traditional communal meal- aphathi – prepared for us by our gracious hosts today in Jaillihuaya, I experienced this realization when served grilled llama meat within the vicinity of a llama grazing field.. It was the same feeling of betrayal and discomfort as when you use black slang in front of your African American friend and realize that isn’t your place or right. I felt as if the llamas were looking at me, scolding me for eating their friend, possibly weeping for his or her loss. I know this is vacuous and unlikely considering they aren’t rational beings but the sentiment was there nonetheless.

It is also important to note here that I realize that there is a circle of life and that the Jallihuaya people depend on this meat for their survival, I am not judging this fact in any way, but I personally feel that with my privilege and ability it is my responsibility to avoid the extraneous squandering of such life. Now I’m not saying that I will never eat bacon or friend chicken again, but I plan to continue keeping my consumption to a minimum and to recognize the sacrifice made with every meal. I definitely left today a new person with a fresh perspective and understanding of what it means to eat meat and why it is important to respect and completely use the creature you sacrifice for sustenance.

One thought on “Throwing Off the Llama’s Groove

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  1. Eating meat is increasingly a complex, political (and moral) issue. I eat meat. But it’s interesting that much of the way Americans (in general) identify with meat is more abstract than what you may have experienced in the altiplano. Farmers, of course, have long had a more intimate relationship with their meat. I knew a girl in high school who received a calf when she was younger, which she raised as part of her 4H club. She knew she was going to eat it for her senior graduation dinner, and named it BBQ. She loved that cow, and cared for it for many years. But she always knew she was someday going to eat it. That kind of “real” understanding of where meat comes from is increasingly rare in the US. It’s an interesting perspective to try to put oneself into.

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